Nursing program has early success

CCC graduates pass licensing exams at high rate


When its Nursing and Allied Health Building opened in September 2004, Carroll Community College had already started its first registered nurse program.

The college's first RN class of 19 students graduated in May, and before the summer was over, all 19 students had passed their licensing boards.

In August, the college's fourth practical nursing class graduated, and all of those 19 students passed their boards on the first try, the second consecutive LPN class to do so.

"Since the programs started, we've been above the state average," said Nancy Perry, Carroll's nursing program director. "We were the only school in the state to have a 100 percent pass rate on our first RN class."

The college stepped up its nursing program in early 2001, in response to a nationwide nursing shortage. Perry was hired at that time to develop and coordinate the LPN and RN programs. She also teaches several classes.

Donna Dorsey, executive director of the Maryland Board of Nursing, said, "It's quite an achievement for a new program. The state average is 86 percent for all Maryland programs for RNs, and it's exactly the same for all U.S. candidates."

The LPN pass rate is higher, at 95 percent for the state and 89 percent for the country. Seven other LPN programs in Maryland also had 100 percent pass rates on the first try, Dorsey said.

"As a new program, we're real pleased that the program is in place, and more pleased that they have been so successful," Dorsey said.

The LPN and RN programs are intense for students, who call the curriculum "a 40-hour-a-week job," Perry said. Students begin with pre-clinical classes in the sciences, math, psychology and English.

The nursing classes include classroom study, lab work and clinical work, for which students go out into the community and care for patients.

Courses for both programs include dosage calculations, clinical nursing, reproductive health and medical-surgical nursing. The LPN curriculum includes Nursing Throughout Developmental Stages and Issues in Practical Nursing.

The RN program includes psychiatric/mental health, care of children and preparation for practice.

"We consider them generalists because we give them a taste of everything," Perry said.

The college uses Carroll Hospital Center, Carroll Lutheran Village, Fairhaven Retirement Community, numerous county nursing homes and other Baltimore-area hospitals for hands-on clinical training, Perry said.

The LPN certificate program consists of a fall, spring and summer semester. The RN is a full two-year program, leading to an associate of science degree.

Some students, such as Megan Newburn, take the full LPN curriculum, take their boards, then continue into the RN program.

"I started last February [at the hospital] as a nurse extern, then switched to the LPN program after the boards," said Newburn, a medical-surgical LPN at Carroll Hospital Center. "Now I'm in the fall semester [at the college] to be an RN."

The program "is very rough, very time-consuming, it requires a lot of studying and patience," Newburn said, "but is worth it in the end."

They're "very well prepared" for nursing jobs from all the clinical experience the program makes them do, she said.

"I feel comfortable doing my job," Newburn, 23, said.

That all graduates passed their boards on the first try is a testament to the students and the program, Perry said.

"The average age of our nursing students is 29 to 30, but we have some 19- [and] 20-year-olds, and some 50-year-olds," Perry said. "Most have children, so it's a huge priority setting for them, juggling the demands of being a wife, a mom and anything else. They're very committed."

The five classes have included a handful of men, Perry said.

Two LPN graduates in the first two classes had to take their boards a second time, Perry said. Once they pass those boards, they can go almost anywhere and get a job.

"The RNs can start right in practice from here," Perry said. "Two-thirds went to critical care, some have gone to Carroll Hospital Center and some to other Baltimore-area hospitals."

The nurses like critical care because "they like the action and excitement, and they feel they can use their skills to the max," Perry said.

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